November is a month full of family celebrations and I will be highlighting them in my weekly column. This week we are looking at National Caregivers Month. Today in the U.S. over 65 million people are caring for family members in some capacity and account for about 29 precent of the population. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, these people spend an average of 20 hours each week providing care for family members. We all know someone who cares for a family member; it may be a co-worker or a neighbor. This person may have sole responsibility of a family member 100 percent of the time or may have an arrangement to check in daily, run errands and see that the loved one gets to doctor’s appointments. They often go through their week working at a full time job and taking care of their own households with the added responsibility of caring for a loved one. Most people quietly do this with love in their heart and wouldn’t have it any other way, but it is taxing on an individual’s time and money. Surveys show the average caregiver is helping a parent, but some may care for a spouse, special needs child or grandchildren.
The NAC reports over 60 percent of caregivers are middle aged woman caring for an older parent who lives in a different household. Most have children under 18 years of age, living at home and many have grandchildren too. This means most caregivers are part of the sandwich generation, caring for both young and old family members at the same time. In addition to consuming a person’s time, caring for a loved one can impact the finances of a family. A survey conducted by AARP several years ago revealed the average family caregiver spent over $5,000 out of pocket for caregiving expenses which translates into more than 10 percent of the median income families’ finances. The National Family Caregivers suggest there are many things we can do to honor family caregivers in our community. If you know someone in the role of a family caregiver, take time this month to recognize that person and let them know how much you admire and respect their efforts. It is often kind words and acknowledgment that make a difference in a person’s life. If you want to do something special and are at a loss of what to do, the National Family Caregivers Association has great ideas for helping caregivers in our community.
Here are a few suggestions: Offer a few hours of respite time to a family caregiver so she can spend time with friends or have time to relax. Send a card of appreciation or flowers to the caregiver recognizing the effort. Help a family caregiver decorate their home for the holidays. Prepare a Thanksgiving dinner for the caregiver’s family so they don’t have to spend time cooking a big meal, or better yet, invite them to your home. Help a family caregiver find information and resources available to assist. Family caregiving can be a stressful experience. A person having the responsibility of caring for a family member in addition to their normal daily routine needs a break from the full time responsibilities. If you know someone in a care giving situation, make it a point this month to give them special recognition. For more information on family matters, contact the Madison County Extension Service. The University of Florida Extension/IFAS – Madison County is an Equal Employment Opportunity Institution.